1915 - 2009
Nol van 't Riet
On Saturday the 14th of February the last of the grand old men, although he was rather small, who were present at the foundation of ICCF in 1951, died in Sweden: Erik Jakob Larsson. His age was 93.
Many of us learned the game from our father. And Erik too, although his father thought that at the beginning of the game two pawn were allowed to go forward. But the game could not engage him so much. He preferred soccer, tennis and table tennis. But in Landskrona (where he was born on the 20th of May 1915) he participated in 1931 in a simultaneous display given by Bogoljubov. He lost the game in 22 moves, but this was the start of his fascination for the game of chess. He subscribed on the magazine Schackvärlden and then he discovered that you also could play correspondence chess. At that time chess magazines often organized their own tournaments.
In 1934 Erik moved to Stockholm where he has worked for a big Swedish export company, before he - later-on - returned to the neighbourhood of Landskrona. And there, in Stockholm, during the OTB Olympiad of 1937, a Congress was held of the IFSB, the predecessor of ICCF, founded in 1928. Also present in Stockholm was Aljechin, who approved the plan to come to a seperated World Championship for correspondence chess players. It was also on this congress that Erik (22 years old!) was appointed as the leader of the World Tournament Office. Actually he held this position until 1987, when his successor Ragnar Wikman from Finland was elected at the ICCF Congress in Bloemendaal.
For fifty years Erik has been working on the growth and the development of international correspondence chess. The highlights were the World Championships and the Olympiads. But he also loved the promotional tournaments. They are very special as in those tournaments the stronger and the less stronger players can play internationally. There is no other sport where this is possible. Erik also was a convinced Esperantist. Together with the other grand old man of international correspondence chess, his friend Hans-Werner von Massow, who died in 1988, Erik belonged to the idealists who tried to use our game for the purpose of achieving more understanding between the people and the nations.
After the Second World War IFSB no longer existed. Erik then founded ICCA, which did not last for long due to quarrels and financial problems. This period ended in 1951 when ICCF was founded in London. In the meantime Erik had succeeded in the implementation of the numerical notation of the moves. ICCF got the structure which we still have nowadays: members are the national federations, each with one vote.
I met Erik for the first time at the 1980 ICCF Congress in Linz (Austria) where I was appointed as chairman of the Working Party Rating System. A job which “kept me from the street” until 1987. I immediately “fell in love” with Erik. Always friendly, always in good humour, working on his only goal: reform the world into a club of friends: Amici Sumus. The last Congress he visited was 1991 Järvenpää.
Erik was always accompanied by his wife Svea. She always had a kind of a poetry album with her in which all Congress visitors constantly had to write something. For me one of the highlights were the moments when we were having the opening and/or the closing banquets and Erik asked me to fill his glass of wine one more time, and one more time, and one more time. His doctor had instructed not to drink more than one glass a day. It was my task at those moments to pay attention that Svea should not catch him. But it never became a problem as Svea was much too busy with her poetry album. In the meantime Erik and I made a lot of fun. Because that's what he also could be: funny and naughty.
Erik kept playing correspondence chess until he died. At that moment he only played one game as his daughter Birgit wrote me, a game with his great-grandchild of ten years old. His last international tournament has been postal group 2 of the Open H. J. Mostert Memorial. When he started this tournament he asked me as tournament director to consider him a bit as on his age always something could happen. Unfortunately I had to answer him that in such cases I only could apply the rules. Of course Erik could respect and appreciate that point of view.
Founding ICCA in 1946 Erik wrote: “once again in this century a terrible war has come to its end. Our hope is that shall have an ever lasting peace.” May Erik rest in that peace.